Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama (白川郷, "White River Old-District") UNESCO World Heritage
Situated at the Shogawa river valley surrounded by the rugged high-mountain cross the border of Gifu and Toyama Prefectures in Central Japan, the Shirakawa-go Villages has been known for the architectural styled houses - Gassho-zukuri (合掌造り). The large houses with the steeply pitched thatched roofs are the traditional Japanese houses that still exist till the modern day.
This beautiful village gives different views in every season, I intentionally visited during Winter and the view was just like a historical painting that absolutely stunning.
Shirakawago Bus Terminal/ Tourists Information Centre
The tourist information centre located at the Shirakawago Bus Terminal as well as the Main Information Center Daei-no-Yakata. The maps were available in various languages at the displayed area, that made the trip a lot easier to navigate. Besides providing the tourist information services, they were also selling bus tickets as well as providing luggage storage service. It could get really busy during the peak season, I could hardly move when I was there.
** If you ever take the bus services, please remember to make a reservation of your return trip when you arrives as it may be fully booked by the time you are ready to leave.
We were advised to visit the Observatory centre before the start of the trip, that gave us an overview of the beautiful Shirakawago before walking to the village.
To get there
1. Take a short walk to the Shuttle Bus Depot, spend approx JPY 200 per person to take the 10 mins shuttle bus trip to the Observatory Centre. The bus gets back to the depot in every 15 mins.
2. Take a 30 mins walk to the Observatory Center or another 15 mins walk if you are walking from the Main Information Centre (Deai-no-Yakata).
At the Observatory, there was a photography service available for a cost. We paid for it as they raised the platform to a height that provided an awesome view of the Shirakawago Village. After taking those amazing photos, we went into the souvenir shop to buy some souvenirs before walking down to the village.
*** It was quite slippery, I fell down and hit really hard on my knee... so, watch out!
Walking in the village was really relaxing even though there were many tourists around. The houses were uniquely built and the village was wonderfully designed to the environment and residents' social and economic circumstances.
While walking around the area, we found many koi fish in the pond while the top layer of the water was frozen. At that moment, I wished I were living in the village for a short period of time to experience the serenity.
If you would like to stay in the village, please book it earlier. The accommodation was booked out even a few months before my trip.
As beautiful as the village was, I spent the whole morning to wander around the Shirakawago Village and headed back to Takayama. Depend on your preference, you can spend the whole day or even stay overnight to immerse yourself in the Japanese old village experience.
Takayama has many tourist attractions that worth to check out such as Hida Folk Village, Takayama Old Street or even the famous Hida Beef.
I used Takayama (It takes approximately 260 mins from Tokyo Station to Takayama Station) as a base to stay for two nights so that I could check out both Shirakawago Village for half a day and Takayama town for another day. If you would like to paste yourself slowly to enjoy the experience, it is not a bad idea to stay for three nights.
To get to Shirakawago, I bought the bus tickets from the ticket machine at Nohi (Nouhi) Bus Terminal (Next to Takayama JR Station) with the assistance from the local staff. Initially I was worried that we might not get the tickets with last minute purchase and there were so many tourists (approx 80 - 100 people) queuing all the way to the back of the building. I was relieft after realizing the Nohi/Nouhi company prepared many buses for the trip to Shirakawago.
The Shirakawago trip was indeed once in a life time, I would highly recommend to pay a visit for those who have been to Japan but would like to check out more of the Japan countryside area.
Japan is easily at the top of my travel list despite I have been there multiple times. I will update some travel information and tips from time to time.